Everyone knows at this point about the German judge who filed a criminal complaint against Chancellor Angela Merkel for her remark that she was glad Osama bin Laden was dead. A great deal has been made of what she said and whether it’s appropriate to be “glad” that bin Laden was killed. But what concerns me is that a German judge thought what she did was criminal.
The situation here is actually worse than it looks. It would be bad enough if the problem were only that a bunch of Germans through it was inappropriate to cheer over bin Laden’s death. That’s the least of our worries. I had the same thought myself; but I don’t propose doing anything about it other than expressing my opinion.
The real problem is that the German judge’s complaint against Merkel, while calling it “tacky and undignified” for her to be “glad” about bin Laden’s death, invoked Germany’s criminal code specifically by claiming that Merkel was “rewarding and approving of a crime” in her statement about it.
Rewarding a crime is one thing – although it is first necessary for a competent authority to determine that a crime has occurred. No such determination has been made in the case of the slaying of bin Laden. Rewarding a crime in a material sense may, however, be sensibly deemed criminal.
But approving of a crime, in the terms implied by the judge’s complaint? – that is, expressing approval, as an unrelated third party, about its outcome? That’s a crime under the German criminal code, and the judge in question interprets it to cover what Merkel said about bin Laden’s killing.
If such a law could be enforced in the US, it would put half the faculty of our universities in prison. It would also apply to anyone who has ever said aloud that a revenge killing constituted justice. If you were glad Jack Ruby took out Lee Harvey Oswald, this law has you in its sights. Socialists and radical groups across the fruited plain could be rounded up and incarcerated for their practice of loudly approving the criminal acts committed by their favorite figures from radical history. Activists who campaign to decriminalize things – e.g., pot – and who express approval of those engaged in civil disobedience would run afoul of this law.
Even if the killing of bin Laden had been judged a crime by a competent authority, the idea that approving his killing is a criminal act, as opposed to merely an impolitic one, represents an unbridgeable divide between the American concept of freedom and whatever it is they’ve got going in Germany these days.
Germans should be free to attack Merkel as vociferously as seems good to them, for the political nature of her comments. More power to them. Rant and rave. Call her names. Take whacks at her and her party through the political process. Elect someone else. All fair game in the melee of politics.
But criminalizing speech in the manner indicated here is the exact opposite of protecting intellectual freedom. The whole point of intellectual freedom – freedom of thought, religion, speech, the press – is that we don’t all agree, from one case to another, on what constitutes crime or justice, much less on what is tacky or undignified. Criminalizing abstract, verbal disagreements over these things is characteristic of leftist utopias – but it is also one of the chief features shared by leftist utopias and Islamism.
There is no difference in principle between the idea that Merkel is made a criminal by approving of the killing of bin Laden, and the idea that speaking “disrespectfully” about Mohammed is punishable by imprisonment, forfeiture of property, or death.
Over the last few decades, prescient analysts – many of whom are themselves Europeans from the classical-liberal tradition – have warned that the trend of European law and jurisprudence is dangerous to intellectual freedom. Until a few years ago, those critics’ principal concern was the encroachment of Western-style “political correctness.” But increasingly, the reasons for invoking restrictive European laws have to do with public speech about Muslims or Islam. Laws like Germany’s, and judicial ideas like those of the judge who filed the complaint against Angela Merkel, are preparing Europeans, intellectually and morally, to take up life as dhimmis.
J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air’s Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions,” Patheos, and The Weekly Standard online.
25 thoughts on “Germans All Set for Dhimmitude?”
Your post is almost entirely persuasive about the lack of merit in the German view of liberty. But then you had to offer a compelling argument in its favor:
“If such a law could be enforced in the US, it would put half the faculty of our universities in prison.”
Epic fail on that one, eh?
I think what most people will fail to note is why the German government has this law in the first place- although it may seem a horrid slap in the face of liberty, most of us never had to deal with Nazism controlling the nation and killing millions.
Is it wrong? Hard to tell- but the purpose for this law is to kill not just extremist groups that kill or subvert but to also kill their support. Think of how this world would be different if we could legally suppress people who publicly say that Bin Laden was right and all non-Muslims should be slaughtered? That is the purpose of the law. Too bad it has been perverted, but I would think that the judge should be investigated for not bring the same charges against outspoken radical Islamists, Jihadits, ect.
jeepers, connie, it’s a damn good thing that an extremely extreme and nutso interpretation of that German statue doesn’t apply to folks tending to offer half-arsed approvals and defenses of all that damnably7 felonious waterboarding.
might line you right up as an opticonvict.
When did I ever offer an approval or defense of waterboarding?
way back when we were young and contentions took comments.
No, fuster, that’s incorrect. I took heat from other commenters for NOT defending waterboarding. You’re thinking of someone else.
Seeing as we had one former German minister toying with 9/11 denialism, and another making forced Nazi analogies, that the story really had a setting in Hamburg,
it’s not that surprising,
scottsinope — welcome to TOC. The problem with your argument is that there can be no equality before the law if intellectual expression is to be punished. Criminalizing some and not other forms of it can only produce invidious social tension.
The US solution isn’t perfect either, by any means. It isn’t clear how to draw the line between, for example, speaking in support of “communism,” and actively supporting “insurrection” against the duly constituted government. We struggled to deal with those activities in law throughout much of the Cold War. Partisans of communist radicalism were never satisfied with even the most minimal constraints on activism — and proponents of intellectual liberty were always uncomfortable about the potential for abuse with those constraints.
We have also always had an understanding in jurisprudence about speech that “incites” others to criminal acts, and the usual axiom about “not shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater.” The bias is always toward narrow interpretations that protect speech to the greatest extent possible. One of the most famous cases occurred in the 1970s, when the Ku Klux Klan (racist, anti-Semitic organization) planned to march through the streets of Skokie, Illinois, a largely Jewish suburban community. Their right to do so was upheld in federal court, and the Jewish residents of Skokie by and large endorsed the court decision. They set up their own counter-demonstration — and I think there was even more press there than demonstrators on either side.
Today the US has “hate” laws under which there is grave potential to abuse intellectual freedom. The difference between the US and Europe, for the moment, is that our political and jurisprudential bias is in favor of intellectual expression, regardless of how offensive (e.g., the vile Westboro kooks who picket funerals on the theory that people’s deaths are God’s judgment on America for tolerating homosexuality).
If you don’t take the position that speech — intellectual expression — is always to be protected, then the freedom of it declines rapidly. I do understand that the US didn’t have the experience with Nazi rule that the Germans had, and perhaps we would see it differently if our history had gone another way.
But the incident with the German judge’s complaint against Merkel is evidence of the inevitability that laws intended to apply unequally to some speech will eventually be used against other kinds of speech. Only the posture that speech is protected, period, can withstand the arguments of Islamism that some speech should be punished or prohibited.
I wasn’t stating an argument, nor was I asserting my position- I was only trying to explain the origin and the reasoning behind the law. I walk the very tight line between free speech and harassment/libel on a daily basis and I am very glad to have the law and constitution on my side.
As a former journalist and college right-wing activist (also former) I know how easy it is to abuse power to shut down opinions you do not like or agree with and I protested against them (getting arrested by campus PD thrice) for years.
Wow, this is a meaningless reply to you— let me just summarize and say my original post was only meant to explain the history and intent behind the aforementioned law and to help one visualize what it would look like in the US (your McCarthyism statement would have been my best example, but alas I did not think of it.)
I enjoy reading intelligent writing from intelligent writers- in other words, keep writing and I will joyfully keep reading! (You need not post this publicly, I will not be offended.)
I’m not sure why you would think this reply meaningless, scottsinope. I didn’t find it so. I hope you’ll continue to comment as you see fit.
I was aware of the different “speech” environment in modern Germany due to the legacy of the Nazi era. Again, things might look different to Americans if we had been the ones to endure Nazi rule. I’m glad they don’t, however, because all specialized constraints on political speech jeopardize the freedom of it for everyone.
I notice that Angela Merkel is still a free woman. In fact, this is a non-story about the opinions of a single publicity-seeking judge. No one has been charged or indicted. No one will. No one’s freedom of expression or action has been interfered with. No one will. It is merely dredged up as a platform to illustrate to increasingly trivial and bizarre opinions of the Opticon, and to have a go at the Europeans who she despises. Opinions of judges (particularly those in the lower courts as is the case with this judge) are the delight of rookie tabloid court-reporters everywhere and contribute mightily to the gaiety of nations. If anyone was to take seriously half the things judges opined off the bench we would all be in queer street. The only thing this non-story tells us is what we know already – that the Opticon hates and despises Europeans. The Germans (even in the unlikely they knew about her existence) would hardly care what she or her fringe friends think anyway.
I think that you’re getting a bit overheated here and wandering into odd territory yourself.
” ……. the Opticon hates and despises Europeans.”
is just not what a reasonable person can conclude.
Well,what other possible motive could she have for this utterly contrived argument?
if you don’t understand a resistance to laws that nibble at the edges of thought-crime, or a profound distrust for simplemindedness in the name of idealism, or even an idea that setting ridiculously burdensome standards for some folks in the West to follow in conducting international while the rest of the world accepts no such standards for their own conduct, then I guess hat you don’t see the possibilities.
the opticon, in my opinion, misconstrues a heck of a lot and has a lot of ideas that I find far from valuable or good, but she’s not mindless nor simply filled with hatred.
___” The situation here is actually worse than it looks.” ___
is alarmist and extremist and ultimately silly, not hateful.
If this trend in Europe continues and, this is far from the first or singular such example, then it is another ‘signpost’ on the path to the effective extermination of freedom of speech (and thought) in Europe. And, if that is so, then things are far more serious than the narrow perspective of day-to-day observation might allow one to suppose.
“The very aim and end of our institutions is just this: that we may think what we like and say what we think. “ Oliver Wendell Holmes – influential American common law judge and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
“Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself. “ Salman Rushdie
Paulite’s arguments are always unanswerable, because they always feature a unique insight into the mind of his/her interlocutor–that person is a hater, a bigot, motivated entirely by malice.
If a judge appointed by Bush had come out with a statement like this, we would be hearing about the “chilling effect on speech” that the statement would have on people less well placed than Merkel. In fact, we probably would be hearing from Paulite about how that judge was motivated by hatred. . . .
If you trawl through the “entertainment” press you will find our judges -appointed by both Dem and Rep administrations – reported as having divested themselves of idiotic opinions on all sorts of things that don’t concern them – and which they have no power to affect. To use the verbal incontinence of some of Judge Roy Bean’s more colourful successors to guage the moral temper of the United States (or the state of its law) would be rather silly, and deserving of our scorn.
Don’t be so quick to dismiss the harm from wack-job judges. A number of asinine statements from the bench can become law, at least until they are overturned. And in the case of our federal judges, they can continue rendering idiotic opinions for life.
OC!?!? Re: Waterboarding. I dunno about “approving” but was it really inappropriate as applied? Given the very sparse use, the context and the purpose?
Not particularly married to WB but it is important to have methods that extract accurate information and do so quickly and not only in the case of “ticking time bombs” but where there is perishable intelligence which may yield valuable info down the road.
WB, as a method that really does no long term damage, is used on our own troops and intelligence agents and even indulged in by reporters seeking to make on point or another is surely a plausible approach.
I also think its important to differentiate between methods used to gather intelligence than to punish or extract confessions for past crimes where “enhanced” approaches are much harder to justify (actually rather impossible, I think).
And yeh, the German dimmitude is problematic. AND they elected a Green government in Baden-Wurttemburg. BADEN-WURTTEMBURG?!?!?! I know things are complicated there in terms of politics and personalities and its not as bad as it seems (I mean B-W going Green). As someone with some personal interest in the matter, though, its still disturbing.
such methods do plenty of long-term damage, cavalier, if you want to live free. the authority to do some things are denied to government agents for damned good reasons.
I suggest you try having it done to you and then you can assess whether undergoing it dozens of times damages the person getting the wet end and whether having the authority to perform it is a good idea for the government that you want regulating your conduct.
As a citizen we wouldn’t have to worry about being wb’ed by our own government as they have (and should) only use that technique on enemy combatants found on the field of battle in our open warfare against terrorists overseas and non-citizens who FREELY ADMIT not only wanting but attempting to kill hundreds of American civilians in terror attacts. Not exacly something Americans need to worry about because the Constitution prohibits that kind of treatment to those of us who live within its borders.
I don’t use fuster’s argument to criticize waterboarding, but I have reservations about it as I have about “warrantless wiretapping.”
There are so many shorthand soundbites and ellipses on this topic that it’s necessary to declare beliefs about it one by one. I don’t think waterboarding is “torture” as defined by US law. I don’t think foreign terrorists are owed the considerations of the Geneva Conventions or the US Constitution. That doesn’t mean I think it’s OK to torture them — or to waterboard them — but it does mean I have no problem with holding foreign terrorists at GTMO (where their conditions are perfectly humane). Nor do I agree with McCain or others that waterboarding, whether we define it as torture or not, can’t possibly yield valid intelligence, because people will say anything to make the “enhanced interrogation” stop.
What waterboarding comes down to, for me, is a less preferred, less morally sound method of waging the GWOT. I don’t agree that the knowledge of US waterboarding turns nice Muslims into vicious terrorists; that’s not the point. If we all lived by the exact code of Christianity (or Judaism, for that matter), the radical Islamists would only want to kill us more.
But once we have someone in custody, he is helpless in our hands. I think we do have to look beyond the current moment to consider the example we want to set and the state of our own souls. Terrorists will never be in a position to “call us to account,” or reciprocate, but terrorists aren’t the only entities that will ever be a threat to us. We also have to have a care for what we are, or might become.
That said, I don’t mean to impugn the characters of people who think waterboarding is OK. I think honest, intelligent people of goodwill can disagree on this.
Two further points. First, I don’t believe the Bush administration did anything its members need to be prosecuted for. Eric Holder’s pursuit of CIA interrogators does qualify as a witchhunt.
Bush reserved for himself the final call, case by case, on whether there would be waterboarding (or, in fact, any form of “enhanced interrogation”). Obama, after all his bloviation during the campaign, did EXACTLY THE SAME THING in his first weeks in office in 2009. His policy matches Bush’s exactly. Even John McCain’s final statements on the matter amount to the same thing. If he were president, he might, in extremis, use enhanced interrogation. It just shouldn’t be routine policy.
I can live with that, although I could also live with explicit prohibition of the enhanced interrogation techniques used originally in the GWOT. I’m sure most people who want to criminalize waterboarding can’t go with me here, because the way I could live without the ability to do intensive interrogations is by prosecuting the GWOT more forcefully in other ways.
This has to do with my strong belief that Americans and the rest of the West should not be prepared to absorb all the pain, inconvenience, and moral and political ambiguity of fending off terrorism. That just changes our societal situation for the worse, and makes it less worth defending. WE shouldn’t accept more and more constraints on ourselves (e.g., TSA underwear checks), and neither should we accept that we have no alternative to the inexpensive, but potentially self-destructive, option of “enhanced interrogation.”
Pushing the evil regimes in Iran and Syria to fall would be worth a millennium of waterboarding, in terms of deterring Islamist terrorism. So would showing gumption in outreach to (and support for) liberalizing elements in Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. I could go on and on; there are numerous policies with interconnected consequences we should be pursuing to shape the conditions that give terrorism momentum. It doesn’t all have to be forcible regime change.
But if we put enhanced interrogation on a dual-criterion continuum, it falls toward the end of “cheap, in terms of resources and effort, but wrong.” Inducing and supporting the regime-change of brutal, oppressive governments that sponsor terrorism falls toward the end of “more expensive, in terms of resources and effort, but right.”
waterboarding IS torture as defined by US law, opticon.
we have had this argument before and I have previously cited the conviction of sentencing to 10 years imprisonment by a federal court to a law enforcement official for using it and the part of US Code under which he was sentenced.
(so maybe I wasn’t so wrong in thinking you to have offered defense of it, even if you’re only giving a halfhearted one)
It’s called the water torture because it is.
You again are defending it’s use by the Bush admin and calling Holder’s inquiry a “witchhunt” is an example of of your own torture of reason.
What the heck has that investigation done and how many witches got sent to the stake?
If you want to try to have it both ways, by saying it’s wrong but we should do it anyway because the mission is good, you’re still left with what to do with the crime.
Investigation of serious and repeated felonies can’t possibly, or itself, constitute a witchhunt.
Bravo, Mr. H. Utmann! I – Irina Wickholm – testify: this double-faced A.Merkel (together with the president of Germany and others) personally violate the rights of people and covers the criminals! Evidence of crimes Merkel and her “friends”: http://wickholm-irina.blogspot.com/
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